Park City High School mechanical engineering student Nicolas Miller, left, explains the functions of a robot built for the First Tech Challenge Competition
Park City High School mechanical engineering student Nicolas Miller, left, explains the functions of a robot built for the First Tech Challenge Competition to Summit County Chair Representative Glenn Wright on Tuesday, Nov. 12, during the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PC CAPS) Grand Opening. Christopher Reeves/Park Record.
The Park City School District Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PC CAPS) was filled with students and business men and women discussing project plans and progress. Some students showed visitors the prototype robot they were building while others described the software they are researching and analyzing.

Jennifer Jackenthal, director of PC CAPS, stood in the thick of it all speaking with possible mentors and business owners about the program's inaugural semester at the PC CAPS Grand Opening. While she had planned for 60 students, she ended up with 150.

"Two hundred and thirty students applied, so the interest from students is definitely there," Jackenthal said. "What is exciting is that the interest is also there on the business side, the parents can see the relevance and it seems to be benefitting everyone."

Jackenthal said PC CAPS came to fruition after the school board decided to take the Career in Technical Education program at Park City High School "to the next level." The class is for juniors and seniors, and it is a half-day class two days a week.

The program was modeled after the BV CAPS program in Overland Park, Kansas, she said. The goal of the program is two-fold. According to Jackenthal, 80 percent of all college freshmen have no idea what they want to major in, and 50 percent of them change their major at least once while they are in college.

Also, employers have been saying that graduating technically-skilled students do not know how or why business decisions are made. PC CAPS helps students "dip their toe in the water of the real world" and work on real projects for real businesses.

"We have 42 projects going on right now, and it's usually two students to a project," Jackenthal said. "We have businesses like Rockwell Collins, Adobe and Skullcandy working with students on projects they might not have the time, money or human resources available to complete at the moment."

Nick Silverii, a junior at Park City High School, is currently working on flight-simulation technology for the Rockwell Collins company, based in Salt Lake City, using Presagis Creator, 3-D modeling software.

"We are building all the static models like buildings and texturing in them and putting it into their real-time software, which has sort of the terrain of the entire world and all the models of other airports they've done," Silverii said. "The project will probably be used by the manager of Heber Airport to work on future expansions, which we will work on next semester."

He wants to go into computer software development in college and enjoys the dynamic of the PC CAPS program, which he says allows him the freedom to choose his own path.

Douglas Emerson, a senior, is working with Adobe's project portfolio management software team to find alternative software to the one the company currently uses to manage projects.

"We are researching vendors and analyzing survey results internally within the company to figure out the best possible software to use," Emerson said. "We are going to make a final recommendation in December, and if they agree with it, they are going to use that software and implement it in their company."

He wants to major in film and minor in business at Chapman College in order to eventually start his own movie production company and said he is glad that PC CAPS has given him connections to the business world and entrepreneurial experience.

Beau Story, a junior, has been working for the past couple of weeks on a robot prototype for Hill Air Force Base.

"We have to build an IED-detecting robot, which is a robot that goes into urban places like buildings and seeks out bombs," Story said. "It has to be able to climb stairs and look around the room, and you control it."

He wants to go to the Air Force or Naval Academy and major in engineering. Story added he has had the most fun building the robot prototype, which is something he wants to continue doing wherever he ends up.

Jackenthal said they have received great feedback from the businesses that have worked with PC CAPS students, because they are surprised at how the high school students have stepped up to the plate. 

Professional mentors like retired CEOs and marketing directors share their "real world" experience help students by reviewing their projects, giving them ideas or suggestions and helping them to get ready for client presentations.

Some of the mentors for the program include the owners of C&S Creative Solutions, Inc.; Craig Kip, retired CEO of Boart Longyear; and Michael Hanahan, chief marketing and sales officer of BoardDocs.

These mentors along with executives from other businesses gathered at the grand opening to discuss progress with students and learn more about the program.

"Now they have a little network, and that will help them perhaps get a job when the graduate from college or get an internship or a job while they are in college," Jackenthal said. "This really gives them something to put on their college application, scholarship application and résumé, because they have done something real."

For more information about PC CAPS - a Park City School District Program - or how to apply, visit www.parkcitycaps.com or contact Jennifer Jackenthal at 435-645-5655.